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17 Aug 2010

The Walkthrough Supremacy

by Mike Tanier

The Ludlum Initiative

Five-word summaries are all the rage right now. You know how they work. You take a topic, like the Monday night Giants-Jets game, and you try to summarize it in five words. Eli bleeds, Revis plays Yahtzee ... or something like that. It's harder than hell, but it's a great writing exercise, especially for those of us who write on the Internet, where brevity died long ago.

I'd like to go one step beyond the five-word summaries to Ludlum Titles. Ludlum titles (inspired by Robert Ludlum, now-deceased author of assembly-line thrillers) have three words. "The," followed by a proper noun (either a person's name or a location), followed by a long, odd-sounding abstract noun that only partially conveys meaning. The Bourne Identity. The Gemini Contenders. The Holcroft Covenant. If Ludlum had written Macbeth, it would have been called The Birnam Deforestation. (By the way, I stole that joke from an old magazine article, I believe by Salmon Rushdie).

In just this offseason, Ludlum would have given us The Favre Indecision, The Tebow Canonization, The Bryant Protocol, The Haynesworth Gauntlet, and for Terrell Owens and Chad Ochocinco in Bengals camp, The Georgetown Divertissement. Ludlum novels are usually pretty dumb, but then again, so are most training camp storylines, so they deserve terse, faux hard-boiled titles.

Come up with a few of your own. While you're at it, crank out a whole Ludlum novel. He's still cranking them out nine years after his death, so it can't be that difficult.

The Bengals Allotment

Carson Palmer targeted Terrell Owens four times in the Hall of Fame game. He targeted Chad Ochocinco just once.

In Sunday's preseason game against the Bengals, Owens was targeted six times, Ochocinco just once.

If you are looking for a potential scandal, you may see smoke rising here. And if you aren't looking for scandal, why are you looking at the Bengals? SportsCenter and Total Access started tracking the targets after the Hall of Fame game, hinting that a double prima-donna tantrum was just around the corner. "Stay tuned," they winked, eagerly awaiting cracks in the Owens-Ochocinco partnership.

I can't say I blame them. I'll be milking those knuckleheads for every drop of available comedy. But the "Battle for the Ball" is a stillborn issue. Owens and Ochocinco may end up fighting over reality show strumpets, they may gang up on Palmer or Marvin Lewis, but they aren't going to fight over the amount of touches they get.

Why? Because both of them have always had to share the load.

Last season, Ochocinco had the Bengals offense to himself, but Owens had to share the ball with Lee Evans in Buffalo. Owens was targeted 109 times, Evans 95. In 2008, T.J. Houshmandzadeh was targeted 137 times, Ochocinco (who was hurt for several games) 97. Owens had 139 targets for the Cowboys, with Jason Witten close behind at 120. Most of the grumbling came not from Owens, but from newcomer Roy Williams, who is a complete nitwit -- even in this company.

Ochocinco (Johnson, then) was targeted 161 times in 2007 to Houshmandzadeh's 161. Owens and Witten each had 141 touches for the Cowboys. Ochocinco had more targets than Houshmandzadeh in 2006 (152 to 132) while Owens (152) outpaced both Witten (91) and Terry Glenn (111) in Dallas. The exact numbers aren't important, but the concept is clear -- both of these guys are accustomed to sharing the ball with another top receiver or a tight end. Owens did so for nearly his entire career. As late as 1999, his fourth season in the league, he was still second fiddle to Jerry Rice, earning 98 touches to Rice's 124.

(Yes, we have target totals going back that far, and further! Check out the player pages to see what you've been missing.)

In Cincinnati, they won't have to worry about a major contribution by a tight end (Jermaine Gresham isn't getting 100 targets), and with Antonio Bryant seemingly buried, the other receivers won't eat significantly into their production. If they stay healthy, both Owens and Ochocinco will get 150 targets. Even if one has a low-target day, he probably won't complain about the other when he could instead blame the coach, coordinator, and quarterback.

A bigger worry in the preseason shouldn't be who the ball is thrown to, but how far it is going. Owens' four catches yielded just 23 yards on Sunday, while Ochocinco's long catch resulted in four yards. Palmer is averaging just 8.8 yards per completion, meaning that he has picked up where he left off last year, dinking and dunking to a fault.

If that keeps up, Palmer could target Owens and Ochocinco 200 times each and still have two unhappy receivers, plus thousands of angry fans.

The Schedule Paradox

So, what lunatic came up with the preseason schedule, anyway?

Thursday nights, Friday nights, games littered all across the weekend, some starting at 7:00, some 7:30, some 8:00. The major networks broadcast a few games, local affiliates take care of the home team, and NFL Network airs a seemingly random sampling of live broadcasts, plus dozens of replays. It's haphazard, inconvenient, and confusing.

This week, the two Thursday games start at 7:30 and 8:00, there's one Friday night game, and Saturday's games kick off at irregular half-hour intervals. The Vikings and 'Niners have Sunday night to themselves, just so we can choke on Brett Favre blather.

Last week, there was a Sunday game at 1:00 p.m. What a novel concept. The Eagles and Redskins played simultaneously, so fans who were curious about the debuts of Kevin Kolb and Donovan McNabb either had to DVR one of the games or demonstrate their ninja skills with the remote control. And recording a preseason game is a sure sign of impending madness.

The NFL, the most careful and calculating of sports leagues, lets anarchy rule for a solid month for no good reason. All the league needs to do is embrace the reverse logic of the preseason, and they can create a schedule that would be much more enjoyable to fans (casual and hardcore), but marketable as well.

The reverse logic of the preseason is second nature to the likes of us. In the preseason, the beginning of the game is more important than the ending. Also, bad teams are more interesting than good ones. The NFL and the networks refuse to embrace this logic, probably because they are still stuck in the 1960s mindset of convincing someone these are competitive football games. It's a bad strategy.

Starting games at 7 p.m. on Saturday night, as the Bucs and Dolphins did, guarantees that by the time a fan settles into his couch at 8 p.m. or barstool at 9 p.m., he's watching Josh Johnson battle Tyler Thigpen (albeit in a mud puddle, which increased that game's entertainment value). Giving the Vikings or Colts their own Monday night network game is a punishment to all but the most gullible fans. Talking about Peyton Manning while watching Curtis Painter is no fun, and we all know it. Better to give the Rams some airtime so we can get a long look at Sam Bradford.

So let's fix the system.

Here's my proposal. There are 16 games every preseason weekend. Let's break them down, Moses Malone-style -- four games on Thursday night, four on Friday night, four on Saturday night, four on Sunday afternoon.

Now, we take a page from the NCAA tournament. The kickoff for the first game is 7 p.m., second game 8 p.m., third game 9 p.m., fourth game 10 p.m. On Sunday afternoon, the first round of kickoff is at 1 p.m. and the second is at 4 p.m.

You see the advantages? Under this plan, it's always the first quarter somewhere. Just when Luke McCown enters the game for Jacksonville, the action shifts out to Green Bay, where Aaron Rodgers is taking the field. (After last week, you may not want to miss McCown, but before that this sounded like a great idea). Also, Sunday afternoon looks like a reasonable facsimile of a real football Sunday now, so you can get a taste of your usual autumn routine.

As for television, the local affiliates can keep the Homer Television Network coverage, and the majors can still keep their games, but NFL Network can broadcast the rest, cutting from city to city at kickoff. So if FOX is itching to show, say, Giants-Steelers at 8, they can have the three-hour Ben Roethlisberger dissection all to themselves. The rest of us can start with Ravens-Redskins on NFL Network at 7, then switch over the FOX for an hour knowing that it will be safe to slide back to NFLN to catch Broncos-Lions at 9 and Packers-Seahawks at 10.

What if you really want to see that rookie running back in the fourth quarter? Well, NFL Red Zone is sitting idle, isn't it? Let the Red Zone guys bounce around between games, looking for rookie debuts, exciting touchdowns, or those moments that make the preseason so special, like fumbled interception returns.

Here's the thing, though. After a year or two, the networks would probably want a piece of the NFL Network's action, especially if there are only two preseason weeks in the future. A station like NBC might look at two preseason weeks with carefully staggered schedules and see a great marketing opportunity. They might buy the whole package, shut down their summer programming for two weekends (they were showing gymnastics on Saturday night, so this isn't a hardship), and advertise the preseason as a summer Football Fest. Goodbye, Homer Television Network. Goodbye, rambling Favre discussion in the fourth quarter of Bengals-Chiefs. Hello, better fan experience, plus one more revenue stream for owners and players to argue over.

It's a simple fix, and it can probably be shifted into the middle of the current contract negotiations without either side blinking. It may not be a perfect system, but it beats the heck out of the current system, which really isn't a system at all.

The Cruz Revelation

Rookie Victor Cruz made a name for himself with his six-catch, 145-yard, three-touchdown performance on Monday night, and you can bet that Giants fans will be rooting for the kid from Paterson Catholic to make the roster. In honor of Cruz, I thought I'd look back at some of the best preseason receiving stats of the last nine years, just for the sake of nostalgia and a little "where are they now" analysis.

Best: Randy Moss, 2001: nine catches, 296 yards, five touchdowns. Moss had a 60-yard touchdown in the first preseason game, a 59-yarder in the second, 74 and 54-yarders in the third, and a 25-yarder in the fourth. This was the beginning of the end of the Moss-Daunte Culpepper heyday. Moss caught 82 passes that season, but the team went 5-11, Denny Green gave way to Mike Tice, and Moss stopped caring for a few years.

Runner Up: Paris Warren, 2007: 15 catches, 191 yards, four touchdowns. Warren, a seventh-round pick by the Buccaneers in 2005, had a Cruz-like seven catches for 100 yards and two touchdowns in the fourth preseason game of 2007. Warren appears to have played the whole game, with starters like Joey Galloway resting. He clearly started, and he also caught a 31-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter. Warren is now tooling around the minor leagues. After stints on the Cowboys and Saints rosters, he resurfaced with the Florida Tuskers of the UFL and something called the River City Gators.

The Reception King: James Jones, 2007: 21 catches, 233 yards, two touchdowns. Jones got a lot of preseason work in his rookie year. He caught both touchdown passes in the second preseason game, a 16-yarder from Brett Favre in the first quarter and a 7-yarder from Aaron Rodgers in the second quarter. He led the Packers in receiving in all four games. He went on to catch 47 passes as a rookie, though he has stagnated since.

Double Trouble: Derrius Thompson and Darnerien McCants, 2002: 27 catches, 501 yards, eight combined touchdowns. That first Steve Spurrier preseason started out with a bang. The Redskins won four of their five games that year by scores of 38-7, 37-30, 35-34, and 40-10. Thompson, a third-year receiver who kicked around the practice squad before Spurrier arrived, had eight catches for 129 yards and two touchdowns in a game against the Steelers. Thompson and McCants, a fifth-round pick the previous year, combined for four touchdowns in the preseason opener. Both receivers earned jobs, with Thompson catching 54 passes and McCants 21.

We can chuckle about the Spurrier era, but wouldn't it be great to see Cruz have a 21-catch season? Oh, and one of the guys throwing those touchdown passes in 2002 was Sage Rosenfels, who had three touchdowns for the Vikings last week. He's been a part of our Augusts almost as long as the boardwalk itself.

The Fantasy Protocol

Here's a rare encore of a Walkthrough segment that ran last August on the subject of fantasy drafts. The subject of draft scheduling has come up once again in my own life, and in the last two weeks I engaged in an e-mail thread just like this one. Note that the dates and players are a year old, and yet timeless:

Culled from e-mail inboxes across America and beyond:

COMMISH: OK guys, it's time to pick a draft date. I am good Thursday the 20th, Friday the 21st, Thursday the 27th and Saturday the 29th. Are any of those dates good for you guys?

PLAYER 1: I can't make the 20th or 21st. Going antiquing with the wife.

PLAYER 2: Have to go to Wisconsin on business on the 27th.

PLAYER 3: Taking my kid to Howlin' Toddler Amusement Park the week of the 29th.

PLAYER 4: I am taking my fiancée to Antigua from the 21st through the 28th.

COMMISH: OK, one of you may have to get a proxy or draft by phone.

PLAYER 1: I can get my cousin Murray with the personal hygiene problem to draft for me.

PLAYER 2: I can give Player 4 a list for the first 10 rounds, then draft by text message.

PLAYER 3: What about loading up a chat room, listing all the picks, and I can select using my iPhone?

PLAYER 4: Look, I hate playing when I can't draft my team. Can you work around my schedule?

COMMISH: Maybe. How about a Sunday morning?

PLAYER 1: Church.

PLAYER 2: That's my only gym time.

PLAYER 3: Kids' soccer practice.

PLAYER 4: Hangover.

COMMISH: I am not sure what to do.

PLAYER 2: Don't worry about me. I have my list all ready. In Round 1, my order goes: Adrian Peterson, Brian Westbrook, Maurice Jones-Drew, Brandon Jacobs, Steven Jackson, Matt Forte, Peyton Manning, LaDainian Tomlinson, Clinton Portis, or Tom Brady. Then, in Round 2, if I got a running back, come back with Manning or Brady if they aren't taken, or Drew Brees or Jay Cutler, in that order, if they are. If I got a quarterback, take the top running back off the list above, or Frank Gore, Joseph Addai, or Thomas Jones.

PLAYER 4: Oh, I'm also going to the Outer Banks from August 30th through September 10th. Can you work around my schedule?

PLAYER 3: Why don't we just use an online league, and let the computer pick our rosters? Then, we can use the computers to select the lineups too. The winner of the league can get a virtual trophy.

PLAYER 1: Give Murray a chance. He's sorry about what he did to your floor three years ago, Commish. Turns out that brand of buffalo wing sauce causes him severe intestinal problems.

PLAYER 2: In Round 4, take the best available wide receiver if I already have two running backs and a quarterback. If I have three running backs or took Randy Moss then take Tony Romo or Donovan McNabb. If NOT (2 RBs AND 1 WR) XOR (1 RB AND 1 QB AND 1 [NOT (TE or Def)] then Laveranues Coles.

PLAYER 4: Can we not do nights? I don't like nights.

COMMISH: OK, this is insane. No more crazy schedules. No more online drafts, proxies, or Boolean algebra lists.

Most of us have been playing fantasy football for 15 years or longer. We know there will be drafts in late August. We know that the draft is the most fun part of a fantasy league. It's our only time to get together, the only chance we really have to meet as a bunch of guys and talk. We need this time together, and we deserve it.

Let's try to fit the draft into our schedules. Somebody cancel something. Somebody make a sacrifice. We love fantasy football, and we love spending time together. Let's stop treating fantasy football like some juvenile embarrassment that we wedge into cluttered corners of our lives. Let's embrace it, prioritize it. Now, who is free when?

PLAYER 1: Murray says he can bring lime chips and Clamato for Bloody Marys.

PLAYER 2: In Round 8, take a fourth running back if I have three, or take Dustin Keller, John Carlson, or Desmond Clark if I don't have a tight end, or ...

PLAYER 3: I have an online avatar that automatically rejects or accepts trades. The only decision I have to make now is what color my virtual helmet should be! Ooh, there's an advisor for that!

PLAYER 4: Can we squeeze a draft in during lunch on September 2nd? Oh wait, I am meeting a client that day.

COMMISH: This is my last year as commissioner, I swear.

Instead of just joking about the problem, let's try to fix it. We all want to have a fun draft -- a real-life, face-to-face draft with snacks, trash talk, maybe a few beers. We want to pick our own teams, in person. We want to see our friends, not our friends' loser brothers-in-law. And yet, our schedules are tight. What should we do?

It's simple: plan and communicate.

Try not to plan many major activities in late August. How many fantasy leagues are you in? Two? Seven? You know they will all be clamoring for your time in the last weeks of August and the first week of September. Try not to plan the two-week vacation to Alaska for those weeks.

Of course, sometimes you take the vacation whenever you can get off, and those last weeks of August are the only available times. In that case:

Tell your commissioners immediately about your August-September vacation plans. Let him know the same time you contact the day care provider and the doggie sitter. The earlier he knows about your absence, the easier it is for him to cross out potentially bad dates. While we're at it:

Tell your commissioners about any personal scheduling idiosyncrasies. Most of the guys in my leagues are in their 30s and 40s now, which means most work 9 to 5 jobs (yeah, 7 to 7). There's an assumption that on a given Thursday night or Sunday afternoon, while people might be busy, no one is necessarily working. If that doesn't apply to you, let your commish know, sooner rather than later. And while telling your commish when you can and cannot draft, please remember to …

Make Yourself Available: This has become a pet peeve of mine, because in the past I have come back from vacation for drafts, hired babysitters for drafts, and made other very minor sacrifices in the name of having fun at a draft without inconveniencing my friends. No one is asking you to give up the Jimmy Buffett tickets (heaven forbid you miss him singing his five hits for the five millionth time) or to cancel the trip to Aruba, but you can accommodate your fellow drafters a little bit.

Many of us New Jersey types take our vacations down the shore, about an hour from home in many cases. Under those circumstances, you can drive back for the draft, then return without missing anything. Chances are, you can ask your wife for a favor and skip the Apple Butter Festival to go to a draft, or work late/see extra clients/finish your article on a Wednesday to reach a Thursday draft. Also, remember that everyone else is busy with families, careers, and life as well. There's nothing worse than learning that everyone moved their schedules to accommodate one guy's Bubble Hockey League tournament. Which brings me to the last point:

Know When You've Become the Problem: You work in National Security, there's a huge deadline looming the third week of September, and you have seven kids. Maybe it's time to face the harsh reality that you won't be able to attend the draft. That's a shame, but you might be doing your friends a favor by bowing out. Find a good co-owner, not Cousin Murray but a smart football guy who can get along with your friends and draft a team both of you can live with. Or, just let the commish know in July that you have a problem, then send everyone a nice e-mail wishing them well. It's better than holding everyone hostage.

Oh, and one more thing: It should only take a minute to draft a player. If you know what you are doing, then it only takes a minute to find the guy you want. If you don't know what you are doing, it only takes a minute to pick a name that sounds good. If you have no idea who to draft, just take Kevin Smith. Robert Ludlum calls that The Millen Method.

Posted by: Mike Tanier on 17 Aug 2010

57 comments, Last at 30 Aug 2010, 5:03pm by Kevin from Philly


by Adam B. :: Wed, 08/18/2010 - 12:34pm

1. I swear by http://www.doodle.com for all my scheduling needs. A very easy site to use for finding out from a large group of people which dates work best for all.

2. On the preseason thing, I don't believe most teams (a) want the heat of an afternoon preseason game in August or (b) want to compete with Sunday baseball. But mostly (a). The other problem is that there are only four teams in the Pacific time zone and two in the Mountain, making those late starts a bit problematic. Two "west" teams -- the ones in Missouri -- are in the Central time zone.

3. Sorry I missed the Collingswood reading. Could not cross the river in time.

by Arkaein :: Wed, 08/18/2010 - 2:33pm

In addition to baseball, I've assumed that the NFL doesn't want preseason games to compete with golf and tennis tournament finals on Sunday afternoons.

Still, I think the overall idea has some merit, it just might need more or less than exactly 4 games on each day with a few doubled up time slots.

by Dean :: Wed, 08/18/2010 - 4:32pm

Why would the NFL care about golf or tennis?

by Arkaein :: Wed, 08/18/2010 - 7:05pm

Golf and tennis tournament finals are on Sundays. The NFL simply doesn't want to compete against a superior ratings draw head-to-head if it can be avoided, especially if it is going to be competing for the same or overlapping sets of viewers.

Lots of casual sports fans would rather watch real golf or tennis than practice football, even if they prefer regular season NFL games to the other options.

by Jon Frum (not verified) :: Wed, 08/18/2010 - 10:50pm

What does the NFL care about viewers so 'casual' that they'd rather watch golf(!) than ANY NFL football?

by Dean :: Thu, 08/19/2010 - 8:28am

"The NFL simply doesn't want to compete against a superior ratings draw head-to-head if it can be avoided"

There is no such thing as a superior ratings draw. Preseason football will outdraw anything short of regular season football and postseason football.

by Jimmy :: Wed, 08/18/2010 - 12:37pm

'Salmon Rushdie' - is this a fish joke or a typo?

by Dean :: Wed, 08/18/2010 - 12:47pm


by Bobman :: Wed, 08/18/2010 - 1:35pm

Just like Sal Bass in the sauna in that Seinfeld episode.

by Dean :: Wed, 08/18/2010 - 12:47pm

Speaking of Sam Bradford, NFL Version, after one game, the preliminary evaluation is that he looks like a young Drew Bledsoe. He has a quick release and a big arm and can move around in the pocket, and can even throw a little on designated rollouts, but he isn’t going to create anything with his legs and isn’t going to be a threat running the ball. Over time, he will become a strict pocket passer. This is a guy who will need a quality OL in front of him – even moreso than most QBs. And given that our first look at the Rams OL showed us that the whole is decidedly less than the sum of the parts…

Wait - Jimmy Buffett has 5 hits?

by Shattenjager :: Wed, 08/18/2010 - 3:40pm

I had exactly the same thought about Jimmy Buffett, so I looked it up immediately after reading that sentence.

Shockingly, using top 40 on the Billboard Hot 100 as the defining criteria of "hit," he has had exactly five: "Margaritaville" (#8 in 1977), "Come Monday" (#30 in 1974), "Cheeseburger in Paradise" (#32 in 1978), "Fins" (#35 in 1979), and "Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes" (#37 in 1977).

by Dean :: Wed, 08/18/2010 - 4:36pm

I'm actually a fan of his. And there are dozens upon dozens of classics that his fans love and garner great crowd-response every show - but the rest of the world could care less about.

However, there's a reason (besides self-depreciating tongue-in-cheek humor) that he named his first collection "Jimmy Buffets Greatest Hit(s)."

by Anonymous1 (not verified) :: Thu, 08/19/2010 - 4:45pm

Even more remarkable is that Golden Earning has a greatest hits album. Can anyone even name a song other than "Radar Love" and "Twilight Zone"? How did they pick the songs? Dart board? Coin Flip? Did each member get to pick their own personal favorite?

by Shattenjager :: Thu, 08/19/2010 - 8:47pm

I own Golden Earring's greatest hits album. It oddly does not include their next-highest-charting US single, "When the Lady Smiles" (#76 peak).

They were much bigger in their home country (the Netherlands).

They have been together since (depending on what sources you believe) either 1958 or 1961 (I think the latter is more likely) and had the exact same membership since Barry Hay joined in 1968--an impressive run even if they have not had sustained international success.

by Shattenjager :: Thu, 08/19/2010 - 8:57pm

I actually was struck, when looking him up, by the sheer number of country chart appearances Buffett has had (16) and that he had five songs in addition to the top 40 hits that did make the Hot 100 (one of them in 2006!)--he really had considerably more success on the singles charts than I thought.

by justanothersteve :: Wed, 08/18/2010 - 12:52pm

Another excellent Walkthrough - and all too scary-true. My leagues do the online draft thing, with many of us get together at one house carrying our laptops. Hey, it works. I guess you could call it The Linksys Obligation.

by The Other Other Ben Johnson (not verified) :: Wed, 08/18/2010 - 1:31pm

Best: Randy Moss, 2001: nine catches, 296 yards, five touchdowns.

I don't care if that's preseason or not, man, that's insane. I didn't remember this at all.

by tgt2 (not verified) :: Wed, 08/18/2010 - 1:50pm

That's over 4 weeks.

by TomC :: Wed, 08/18/2010 - 1:53pm

Yeah, but it's 33 yards a catch and a TD more than half the time he touches the ball. I think "insane" is warranted here.

by Bobman :: Wed, 08/18/2010 - 1:36pm

Tanier has my vote for scheduling czar. That is an awesome Moses Malone/NCAA hybrid. I'm in.

by Joseph :: Wed, 08/18/2010 - 1:57pm

Warning--if this comment seems ignorant, it's because I am one of the extremely few guys under 40 who has NEVER played fantasy--although, as a loyal FO follower, I have played Loser League.

If I understand correctly, groups of friends play in the same league year after year. (I know--maybe you have another ESPN/FOX/NFL league that you sign up for randomly, but whatever.) If that's the case--AND YOU CAN'T FIGURE OUT A DAY FOR IT BACK IN JUNE OR SOMETHING--this may be the problem. I'm not saying do the draft in June--I'm saying, at the start of the summer, make the vacation plans, figure out a Sunday afternoon, or even better--plan to take a day off RIGHT AROUND THE START OF THE SCHOOL YEAR.
Look, I know that every school doesn't start on the same day, private schools do different than public ones, etc. But unless your kid's school is going to start after the Thursday night opener, why can't you all plan to take the first Monday of school off? Look, most of your co-workers take their vacations in the summer--so take ONE DAY when everyone else will already be back! Bonuses--if the wife/steady GF has a job, too--will she really give a care? No kid interruptions, either. If there's something important going on at work--well, that's what cell phones/Blackberry's are for, right?.
The only downside I can see is for the author of this article--if you're a teacher, the principal might not like getting a sub FOR THE FIRST DAY OF CLASSES. However, if you told him/her about it 4/5 weeks before, good grief--get somebody to take roll, give out a syllabus/class schedule, give a simple homework assignment, and give them the period to do it. It can't be THAT difficult, can it?

by Mr Shush :: Wed, 08/18/2010 - 3:33pm

Ah, how simple it must be when every member of your league has approximately the same lifestyle. We have everything from 9-5 plus commute predictability, to self-employed and working from home but with the unavoidable possibility of things which cannot be got out of coming up at less than a week's notice, to clinical medical student with all kinds of long and unpredictable hours, to under-grad on holiday guaranteed to be travelling in some damn stupid place or other for most of the relevant period, to full-on bum who can't be relied upon to even know roughly what the date is, much less commit to one months in advance.

by Adam B. :: Wed, 08/18/2010 - 3:43pm

Try organizing a draft with one owner on a boat off the coast of Australia and another on an army base in Iraq.

by BucNasty :: Wed, 08/18/2010 - 3:12pm

Runner Up: Parris Warren, 2007: 15 catches, 191 yards, four touchdowns. Warren, a seventh-round pick by the Buccaneers in 2005, had a Cruz-like seven catches for 100 yards and two touchdowns in the fourth preseason game of 2007. Warren appears to have played the whole game, with starters like Joey Galloway resting. He clearly started, and he also caught a 31-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter. Warren is now tooling around the minor leagues. After stints on the Cowboys and Saints rosters, he resurfaced with the Florida Tuskers of the UFL and something called the River City Gators.

He dislocated his ankle on his final touchdown in that game, putting him out for the season. And by dislocated, I mean his foot was facing the wrong way. The staff said that game would've gotten him off the bubble and onto the roster. He didn't make the cut the next year, whether due to lingering effects of the injury or because his performance was a fluke against a bunch of backups, we'll never know. The fans really liked him after that, though.

by Mike Tanier :: Wed, 08/18/2010 - 5:16pm

Wow. Another random fact about Warren: his middle name was "Jazz"

by tuluse :: Wed, 08/18/2010 - 5:36pm

That's pretty awesome.

by zlionsfan :: Wed, 08/18/2010 - 4:08pm

9 and 10 PM starts? Even if those were only for West Coast games (which, as mentioned above, makes it rather difficult to schedule enough of them), you've still got games running past 1 AM on a weeknight. Nobody likes preseason football that much. Of course, if you've got later starts on local time, there's going to be even less interest in watching the game live: people will either bail at halftime or not go at all.

Besides, any idea that involves cutting from game to game is going to fall flat if you don't also have a way to watch the entire game for "your" team ... look at how the 4:05 and 4:10 kickoffs cause problems during the regular season.

I'll also second the comment about 1:00 (and 4:00) start times in August. It's bad enough that the NFL expects you to pay full price for these charades, but to sit outside in 90-degree heat or worse as well? If anything, teams setting those times should be questioned, not commended.

Look, pretty much all FO writers (and more than a few readers) are part of a very small group that actually wants to see more preseason football. Most people really don't care much, if at all. (Unfortunately, I'd guess a good percentage of them also support the move toward an expanded regular-season schedule ...) The NFL doesn't organize exhibition games any more tightly because there isn't a need to do so. People like Mr. Tanier are put in more of a bind because of it, but the rest of us seem to be content waiting for the Thursday night opener (or the Saturday NCAA kickoffs).

by dbostedo :: Wed, 08/18/2010 - 5:52pm

"It's bad enough that the NFL expects you to pay full price for these charades..."

This has probably been discussed to death, but a) it's individual teams, not the NFL - although the teams are probably acting somewhat collectively and b) the price of the season ticket isn't "real" since any lowering of it's price would simply mean the regular season prices go up (for teams that consistently sell out their games).

by BucNasty :: Wed, 08/18/2010 - 7:17pm

As for television, the local affiliates can keep the Homer Television Network coverage, and the majors can still keep their games, but NFL Network can broadcast the rest, cutting from city to city at kickoff.

There's the solution to your second paragraph. The local team is still broadcast in its entirety if you're in the media market of one of the participants, while the rest of the world is only subjected to roughly the first quarter or so. I think you make a nice counter argument otherwise, though I think the problems you bring up call for more fine tuning rather than abandoning the idea entirely.

by Jerry :: Thu, 08/19/2010 - 1:23am

Look, pretty much all FO writers (and more than a few readers) are part of a very small group that actually wants to see more preseason football. Most people really don't care much, if at all.

Well said.

(Unfortunately, I'd guess a good percentage of them also support the move toward an expanded regular-season schedule ...)

I'd be fine with eliminating two exhibitions and keeping the regular season at sixteen games, but I don't see that happening. If I have to buy tickets to ten games, I want as many as possible to count. The only thing worse than getting soaked during a pre-season game that you've paid full price for is waiting through a 1:13 lightning delay afterward.

by Seattleite (not verified) :: Wed, 08/18/2010 - 7:39pm

Assuming those times are Easter, on a weekday 9PM is about the earliest you can reasonably schedule a game and expect many people on the West coast to watch.

by Mr Shush :: Wed, 08/18/2010 - 7:55pm

No, mate, closer to Labour Day. It's the draft you're thinking of.

by Pied :: Wed, 08/18/2010 - 11:56pm

Ooh, bur.

by Richie3Jack (not verified) :: Thu, 08/19/2010 - 8:45am

Can you go thru one essay without bashing the Cowboys or a Cowboys player?


by mathesond :: Thu, 08/19/2010 - 9:05am

Where's the fun in that?

by chemical burn :: Thu, 08/19/2010 - 10:21am

No, because FO hates the Cowboys, HATES them and wants them to fail. That's why they engineered their system to constantly project them with unimpressive records.

by Kevin from Philly :: Mon, 08/30/2010 - 5:03pm

It's not just FO.

by Sidewards :: Thu, 08/19/2010 - 11:30am

It's ROY WILLIAMS. Roy Williams, the #1 receiver! The guy was over-traded for, and hasn't contributed nearly as much as several cheaper players. All through it, he has actually complained about his role in the offense. It isn't a "Cowboys player", it's a player that isn't worth it on any team.

by Revenge of the NURBS (not verified) :: Thu, 08/19/2010 - 12:18pm

"Goodbye, Homer Television Network. Goodbye, rambling Favre discussion in the fourth quarter of Bengals-Chiefs."

Two thoughts --

1) Why would you want to get rid of the homer stations? They are one of the best things about the preseason. I love listening to announcers who openly declare their biases, up to and including using the word "we" to describe the home team. I'd much prefer that to announcers who slob one team while pretending to be neutral.

2) I hate to break this, but rambling Favre discussions will be taking place during regular season games, so there's no escaping them.

by TomC :: Thu, 08/19/2010 - 9:22pm

If you're a neutral party and want to get a feel for both teams, the homer announcing is infuriating. I watched part of OAK/DAL on NFLN (the Dallas feed), and they said exactly four Oakland players' names out loud the entire first quarter. No lineups, no mention of who just made the tackle or defended the pass (except for one time when it was Nnamdi).

For pure entertainment value, I agree it's kinda fun.

by Dennis :: Thu, 08/19/2010 - 2:00pm

How is David Clowney not on the list of preseason receiving greatness? Maybe there needs to be a multi-year category.

by Mike Tanier :: Thu, 08/19/2010 - 2:38pm

Clowney slipped thru the net because his great performances were spread across 2 seasons. I should have included him, because he is Cruz like in many ways.

by Martial (not verified) :: Fri, 08/20/2010 - 12:36pm

Ludlum may have been something of a hack, um, fan favorite, but he was clearly having fun out there. Some writers have realized that it makes writing more fun to include little jokes and references. For example, The Bourne Identity is based on Homer’s Odyssey. Seriously.

by Dean :: Fri, 08/20/2010 - 2:39pm

I'm far from a big Robert Ludlum fan, but you actually make a great point, and it's a bit of a pet peeve of mine.

There are so many great books out there with tremendous literary merit, yet we as students get forcefed books that are boring. The end result is that, for a lot of kids, it kills any desire to read. There are so many page-turners that have been written and are still widely read decades and centuries later, but they never get taught in school.

You want kids to read? Don't force boring tripe like The Great Gatsby or A Dolls House down their throats. Give them Jules Verne. Give them Jack London or Robert Louis Stevenson.

Sure, haughty literary-types might turn down their noses at these guys because they dare to make their books INTERESTING. And no, they might not be as deep as James Joyce or O Henry. But 99% of the kids who are assigned those books don't read them anyway, and many of them end up having their desire to read snuffed.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not suggesting that John Grisham should end up on any curriculum any time soon. But the truth is (even if you'll never hear a college professor admit it) that it IS possible to balance art and commerce. There are tons of books out there with significant literary merit, that people will actually WANT to read.

Let them read First Blood. Deliverance. Woman in White. Etc.

End of rant.

by tuluse :: Fri, 08/20/2010 - 2:46pm

I had a great teacher in high school who assigned us The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy.

Actually I remember generally liking the books we had to read. With the exception of A Tale of Two Cities. I can't stand Dicken's prose. Oh, and The Scarlet Letter.

by Dean :: Fri, 08/20/2010 - 2:55pm

To be fair to Dickins, 150 years ago, people wanted to read endless travelogue (and he was paid by the word to write it). Nowadays, even if you've never been to London or Paris, you have a general idea of what they're like, just from television, movies, etc. Back then, they didn't have that, so the reader could escape in pages and pages of a character walking down the street as a vehicle for the writer to describe the sights and sounds and smells.

Having said that, I couldn't stand it either.

by Martial (not verified) :: Sun, 08/22/2010 - 6:47am

I like Dickens too (I'm currently re-reading all of it after about 20 years and really digging it), but I couldn't agree more about giving kids things to read that are fun and vibrant and keep the pages turning. I started really reading with healthy doses of the SF classics (e.g. Arthur Clarke and Isaac Asimov) and their obvious love of literature was catching. Worked for me.

I have a friend who uses hiphop's wordplay and themes of honor and respect to introduce Homer. Works great for him. It can sometimes be as simple as finding the right starting point.

With Ludlum, the fact that I recognized The Odyssey in his book was a source of great enjoyment. With Tanier, many of us derive pleasure from getting the jokes and asides. I dare say, some of us would say that much of Tanier's skill as a writer is in creating a deeper and more connected experience to football through the process of drawing out interesting and odd relationships. The tapestry of our lives as football fans obviously weaves the sport through much of what we do and colors the way we see the world. But too often our culture compartmentalizes and isolates the pieces that make up our lives. Football is that thing on Sunday. But for us it isn't. Football is in the way we work, the way we read, how we talk, the way we love. That one of the writers who explains and discusses our love of the game gets that is what I love about him.

by Mr Shush :: Wed, 08/25/2010 - 6:07pm

The thing about the likes of Asimov and Clarke (both of whom I like very much) is that they were brilliant thinkers who communicated through fiction, but they were not particularly good writers qua writers. Asimov in particular is a monumentally functional prose stylist and not much of an observer of human behaviour at the micro level. They may well do a good job of getting people into reading, but while that is laudable (as is their considerable intellectual merit), it doesn't make them a good object of study for a literary criticism class.

The only sci fi writer I have encountered who actually holds his own as a writer is Iain M. Banks* - and again, I really like sci fi. I am eagerly awaiting the release of The Evolutionary Void a week tomorrow. I still don't think it should be taught in schools.

Dickens, I'm afraid, bores the hell out of me. I will never understand why he gets taught as standard instead of Austen, who in my view is not only the second best English language novelist of the 19th Century (after Hardy) but, at least as importantly, by far the most readable and entertaining.

*I'm talking here about serious sci fi. I fully expect there to be a module on university English literature syllabi in fifty years time called something like Late 20th Century Satirical Speculative Fiction, with Douglas Adams and Terry Pratchett the central authors, and quite right too. I'm just not sure it really counts as sci fi.

by jebmak :: Mon, 08/23/2010 - 7:44am

Also, let Shakespeare be Shakespeare. I went through over a decade of my life thinking that Shakespeare sucked simply because of the extreme boringness with which it was presented.

by Mr Shush :: Wed, 08/25/2010 - 6:22pm

Oh, God, don't get me started. Ruining Shakespeare for people is a crime, because there's no possible way to get what can be got from Shakespeare anywhere else.

It is difficult, though, because the language really does take some getting used to, and that can be offputting. I also think people tend to start teaching it at exactly the wrong age: if you want people to appreciate a writer whose most monumental gift is his impossible understanding of people - all people - it's probably best not to toss his work into the empathetic void that is a fifteen year old. Get them started by twelve or wait till they're at least 17.

by tuluse :: Fri, 08/27/2010 - 4:14pm

I would be a main example of this. Hated Romeo and Juliette as a freshman, loved Hamlet as a junior.

by ammek :: Tue, 08/24/2010 - 4:19am

Experience tells me that, on the whole, girls find Verne, London, and all those turn-of-the-century adventure-type writers confusing, exclusive, and dull. Many of them — even HG Wells — have to be taught 'in quotation marks' since the politics and the science are often pretty dodgy. Science fiction can also be divisive. Program setters have to take into account all students, and just because you enjoyed a particular style of writing doesn't mean everyone will. There's nothing to stop kids from reading what they like at home: reading should be but, alas, rarely is a family activity.

I wasn't much of a reader as a kid because I hated the holy trinity of chimney sweeps, goblins, and posh kids pretending to be detectives that were forced on me. I started getting into reading aged about 14 through the theater and, in particular, Ibsen, Strindberg, Shaw and all those "boring" naturalists. My first literary crush, if you will, was on Henry James; I had a similar (though obviously lesser) distant, analytical frame of mind. It just goes to show: you can't prescribe fiction. Kids need to experiment. They need to go to libraries and rummage; they need to act out scripts, recite poems, and write stories.

by Dean :: Tue, 08/24/2010 - 10:05am

It doesn't have to be a boys club. Nor is that my intention. Leave in The Scarlet Letter. Leave in A Streetcar Named Desire. They may have more appeal among women, but their authors still knew how to make a book interesting. They're still "page turners." And that's the point. It's not about making the curriculum "books for boys." It's about giving students something they will actually enjoy.

Ibsen is still going to be second in line on the chopping block behind only Fitzgerald.

I also disagree that anybody needs to be "taught around." Do we teach around Homer because the ancient Greeks believed in Zeus? No, of course not. We acknowledge that people believed differently, and that the world has changed since then. It's no different than what we do with Mark Twain, who had the audacity to be a product of his times. Yes, there was an arrogance to certain elements of Victorian literature. But that doesn't entitle us to become the political correctness police about it. We acknowledge that these writers were also products of their times - just like Twain or Dickens that I mentioned above. We (gasp!) learn from them. The difference is, these are books children can learn from and actually enjoy reading.

by tuluse :: Tue, 08/24/2010 - 3:10pm

We actually read some of Genesis my sophomore year.

Of course somewhere around that time, we were no longer allowed to celebrate Halloween in school because the Jehovah's Witnesses wouldn't let their kids attend on that day.

by edswood (not verified) :: Tue, 08/24/2010 - 2:09pm

I actually enjoyed almost every book I was assigned to read in the high school curriculum. Except for that tripe the Scarlett Letter. I don't even remember any of the girls liking that. A Dolls House wasn't one that I read, so I cannot comment on that. However, I disagree with the Great Gatsby, considering that is one of my all time favorites. Still books like The Jungle, Heart of Darkness, Hunchback of Notre Dame, Lord of the Flies, etc., have had a profound effect on my life, so overall I think the school system has gotten it right. I do not think that throwing in a Jules Verne, or Jack London instead is really going to affect much whether a student becomes a reader or not. A kid that gets all his entertainment value from Jersey Shore is not going to become enamored with reading because of a slightly easier more action intense read. That is just my opinion. Still it was nice to be taken back to alot of classics from my youth. Just sad to see literature as we knew it becoming a endangered species these days. Movies have there place, but nothing can take away the experience gained by reading a book. Great discussion Dean.

by tuluse :: Tue, 08/24/2010 - 3:12pm

A kid that gets all his entertainment value from Jersey Shore is not going to become enamored with reading because of a slightly easier more action intense read.

Not everything is black and white. There are matters of degree here.

by Tony Vote (not verified) :: Sun, 08/22/2010 - 10:34am

I'll tell ya what, how about we all petition against these damn preseason schedules so that they make it like the regular season? I'm sure we'll get enough people to sign, then they'll have to change it. If they had a game on thursday, friday, Saturday, and then the bulk of them on sunday with a monday night game or two, we'd be able to watch half of these games. instead, we're stuck watching our local team, which in my case isn't the team i route for.

As far as TO and Ochocinco's afternoon soap opera is concerned, as soon I got news the Bengals signed TO I knew that there was gonna be some sort of drama that would build. It's all a matter of time. It will be fun to watch. I swear these GM's sign players specifically for that reason because they know it will bring media attention to their team.

Great article. I'll be sure to swing around more often.